Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Brooklyn on Wednesday morning to visit the global headquarters of VICE Media, where he met with hundreds of the company's staff members and sat down for an interview with founder and CEO Shane Smith.
During his visit to the company's offices in the neighborhood of Williamsburg, Biden addressed VICE's many journalists, producers, and editors. He discussed the importance of reaching young people and highlighted the role of technology in doing so.
"Thank you for what you do, it's important," Biden said. "You are on the cutting edge of what's happening."
Biden was also given a demonstration of VICE's live-streaming operations, during which he spoke with VICE News Editor-in-Chief Jason Mojica and Nathan Grant, executive producer of live production, about how the team is utilizing the technology in its news coverage. VICE News correspondents Simon Ostrovsky and Daniel Hernandez called in on Skype to discuss projects they are developing in Estonia and Mexico City.
The vice president spoke at length with Ostrovsky about the US foreign policy response to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Biden said that he will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Munich on Saturday to discuss how the US and Europe can provide the Ukrainian government with greater support, including potentially supplementing its military capability and securing an IMF package to help finance the country.
"But we've got to make sure that we do not split Europe in the process," he said.
Ostrovsky suggested that the recent escalation of fighting in Ukraine reflected that sanctions on Russia were not having the desired effect on Russian President Vladimir Putin's calculations in the region. Biden responded by saying that the sanctions should be maintained, stressing that the measures were actually crippling the country and that Putin was not working in the best interests of Russia. He also acknowledged discussions within the administration about whether or not to outfit Ukraine with military equipment.
"There's a debate going on internally now about whether or not we supply additional defensive weaponry and capability, as well as potentially what could be called… weapons that could be used in an offensive way, if in fact there is continued movement by those little green men without patches on their shoulders," Biden said, referring to unmarked Russian soldiers in eastern Ukraine.
He added that Merkel will arrive in the US next week as President Barack Obama weighs various options. "The next move won't be decided by the president until early next week," he remarked, "and will require continued solidarity."
Biden sat down with Smith to discuss a variety of topics, ranging from environmental concerns to gridlock in Washington. Their conversation followed the release on Monday of President Barack Obama's proposed budget for 2016, which includes more than $1 trillion in tax measures on wealthy individuals and institutions over the decade, a boost to military spending, and a plan to commit billions of dollars to fight climate change.
They also discussed some of the most pressing issues affecting young people today, particularly the growing problem of affordable education. The current outstanding student loan balance for people under the age of 40 sits at $870 billion, while nearly 40 percent of Americans younger than 30 carry some amount of student debt.